As a fashion blogger who's every post is tracked with eager eyes, you'd expect Tricia Gosingtian to be used to the attention. But after posting a series of tweets describing her social anxiety, we all realized that Tricia, just like us, has struggles, too. In an interview with Preview, she opened up about how it started, how she's coping, and why she continues to blog despite it all. Read on below.
1. Growing up, have you always been an introvert? Could you describe your childhood?
"Yes! I can barely recall any childhood memory that involved me doing extroverted things. I was always a very reserved student—I hated speaking in front of the class and drawing attention to myself. I never joined any competitive activities—I always wanted to be that behind-the-scenes person who created things without needing to get approval from others, and I avoided getting into situations that may necessarily make other people feel bad (i.e. if you play competitive sports or if you’re part of something like a math or debate team, it hurts to lose, and I’d hate to be that person who makes the other team feel bad, or be that person who loses).
"Being close to my three brothers, despite being the only girl, also helped because I didn’t think I needed to compete for anything plus the fact that my two elder twin brothers were also introverts. We read a lot of books which my parents encouraged (including comics and manga) and shared common interests in music and arts. That made childhood and home very comfortable and natural.
"Looking back, I think the reason I turned to graphic/web design and photography was because I found a likely outlet to express myself, one that minimized what I felt like was a 'necessity to connect.' Growing up at the cusp of social media change, I found it much easier to express myself on platforms like Livejournal and deviantART versus face-to-face interaction."
2. When did you realize you have social anxiety?
"I’ve had smaller panic attacks back in high school and college, though I think it truly manifested after I graduated and found myself in the middle of a world that I didn’t expect to be in. I was the type of kid that never wanted to move away from the comfortable bubble that I created for myself, so things like events, small talk, and being in front of the camera always made my heart beat faster than normal.
"I was very hard on myself, and it wasn’t healthy at all. At shoots, I’d often screw up. Spiels are hard! Especially when it’s your first time! I never dreamed of doing this when I was younger so I never had practice or enough experience and I would blame myself for (possibly) being a hassle to the crew. I’d lock myself in the bathroom and cry, and after five minutes, pretend that nothing happened so I can still put on a good face in public. I look at the output, and the first thing I do is criticize myself instead of patting myself on the back for doing something out of my comfort zone. I put so much pressure on myself because I felt like everyone’s eyes were on me, though in reality, I was simply too much in my head.
"I realized it was getting bad when it would have physical manifestations. I’d get really bad rashes all over my body, sharp back pains, and a strong urge to vomit in the middle of stressful situations."
3. What were the steps you have taken to overcome this? Did you get support? From whom?
"About five or six years ago, I started attending these intimate prayer sessions with one of my Jesuit priest friends. Everyone got busy after a few sessions, but I still have the gist of the lessons from those sessions at the back of my head. It was such a milestone for me because it was the first time I opened up about my issues to someone that wasn’t part of my family or circle of friends. It really helps to get counseling from a third party.
I've had extreme ups and extreme downs. To be honest, I once thought that I had everything in control. But more than once, I swing onto the other end of the pendulum and experience the feeling of everything being taken away from me. Except that this time, I am more aware—which I think is why I'm still doing what I do, so I can overcome my real fears and grow in less painful ways. Beyond having a public persona which shows one side of me, I would also like to communicate what really matters.
"I've stopped counting likes and followers a long time ago, and seeking validation from statistics that at the end of the day, are just numbers and don't necessarily translate to my truth and my worth as a human being. It helps that my family and friends have been very supportive from the start, and I hope I can be that person to other people who don’t have the same luxury of having support as I do."
4. Tell us your story. As a blogger and influencer, you are considered a public figure. What's it like being in the limelight, and at the same time, having social anxiety? Have you ever considered laying low or quitting blogging because of this?
"I started blogging at a time when the whole social media landscape was very different from how it is now. I didn't initially get into sharing my work on earlier platforms (deviantART, Livejournal, Plurk, Tumblr) to be known or to be famous. Though through the years, I came to like the effect of what I was doing—how I can actually shape a person's interests just by being myself and sharing the things that I liked. I wanted to become that inspiring person I needed when I was younger, way back when social media influencers weren’t a thing yet. I spent most of my early teenage years lurking in Japanese street style communities, and you can tell how that shaped me! When you do things you like while being yourself, there wasn’t any adjustment of self even as the mode of expression changed from something private to something more public.
"What I didn’t anticipate was the explosion of social media in paving paths for careers or self-expression because there were no rules and no experts then. I put so much pressure on myself to be a great example, but by consciously not wanting to not make it all about myself, I actually became more and more self-aware and self-protective… to a damaging extent. Because of this, I went through a very tough period in my life when I always doubted myself and totally forgot about the reasons why I got into blogging in the first place. Surprising as it may sound, it was extra rough for someone like me who’s not so good at communicating what’s wrong, or what I truly feel, or who would prefer to hide behind the scenes or have a cry alone inside the restroom.
"The moment I saw the whole frenzy that was my social media journey turn completely upside down, I wanted to disappear. Even if I loved what I do and considered myself very lucky to be able to blog as a job, I’ve had my fair share of instances when I wanted to quit completely and live 'normally' like how I predicted my life to be. I’m not sure if my followers noticed this, but I stopped posting personal stories the last two years because I had some sort of existentialist crisis. I mostly just went with the flow without really deliberately wanting to create a massive impact. I was so uninspired to the point that the first thing I’d do when I woke up was cry.
When did I start living a life based on other people’s expectations? Why did I feel pressured to keep up with people that I shared no values with? What does it truly mean to be an influencer?
"So many people out there in the world have better output than me, and have more followers than me, and I’ve already exhausted my origin story enough that I would be so embarrassed every time someone would mention me as the OG fashion blogger. I always tell them that you can always be the first, but not necessarily the best.
And somehow, because I was extremely overprotective about my posts, and I’d politely turn down a lot of brands that I didn’t personally believe in, I got incredibly conscious that people in the industry would see me as a snob, when in fact, I just live very rationally, and I refuse to ever compromise my credibility over some freebies I would just probably end up selling in bazaars. But of course, for those I turned down, the story would sound very different from mine.
"I realize that this is a non-negotiable space I occupy, and my sense of balance is anchored on my authenticity—something that helps maintain my mental, emotional, and physical states."
5. How did your followers react when you opened up about this?
"The reaction was 100% positive on my end. I received so many emails from people who could relate to my story, and it was really heartwarming to receive supportive words from people in my circle."
6. How has your life been since opening about it?
"I feel so free! I think it's the acknowledgement of my wounds that makes me braver to go beyond my previously self-imposed or imagined limits. If anything, it was a battle versus my own mind. One of the things that pushed me to open up about my anxiety was the deliberate decision to get over it, to get over myself. I named it and claimed it, instead of just running away from it. A priest friend of mine told me, that’s exactly what you call 'grace'.
"Coincidentally, he posted this quote earlier that day—"If you're going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things." - Jeff Zentner
"Even pain is no longer as scary now when you know you will grow because of the experience."
7. I'm sure there are other people dealing with the same issues as you. Could you give them advice on how to understand and overcome mental health issues?
"Self-awareness is key. Knowing the triggers of self-doubt and insecurity helps in managing emotions. Some wounds may be too deep for self-healing and self-management, so it is best to seek help. Kindness and gratitude for anything and everything plus having a sense of purpose can serve as guides in everyday choices. I think it also helps that when we learn to share what we have (time, talent, and resources) with others who need them most, we also become better—so never forget your good reasons for doing and being."